A new study from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), in partnership with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, aims to present a comprehensive picture of current progress in electromobility, and to assess the position of German companies in the rapidly developing market.
The DLR scientists developed a database of every known electric passenger vehicle, including production models, prototypes and research vehicles. They counted over 500 concepts built worldwide between 2000 and 2013, and analyzed each one down to the component level.
A total of 87 new plug-in production models were introduced around the world between 2006 and 2013.
Japan and the US are pioneering the development of marketable electric vehicles. Some 210,000 plug-in vehicles were sold worldwide in 2013, roughly half of them in the US. The study found that Germany is falling behind in R&D of key technologies, especially power electronics.
“Power electronics are crucial to electric cars; these components control and direct the flow of energy within the vehicle, and are therefore important elements in any further optimization of the powertrain. This is why enhanced research into components and materials used in power electronics needs more support here in Germany,” said the study’s Project Coordinator Matthias Klötzke.
Germany does have several advantages – it is strong in assembly and packaging technology as well as systems integration. The electromobility sector in Germany also enjoys close cooperation among research institutions, manufacturers and suppliers. Germany already shows the highest levels of investment in electromobility R&D in Europe.
The report sounds a warning about future shortages of key materials such as lithium and rare earth elements. “To expand electromobility, we need to consider alternative motor designs and recycling methods for particularly scarce raw materials, and we have to search for alternative materials,” says Matthias Klötzke.
The complete report (in German) is available on the DLR’s web site.